What are the perils of Population Bulge?

Hasnain Gul
10 min readJun 1, 2023
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Population bulge, the most debated agenda nowadays, haunts humankind at large. Keeping the gravity of the rising global population in mind, Nobel laureate Henry W. Kendall has well-articulated: “If we do not halt population growth with justice and compassion, it will be done by nature for us brutality.” The gravity of the issue can be evaluated from the fact that till the end of the 18th century, the global population statistics were hovering around one billion, and in a matter of mere two centuries, the number of people living on earth became eightfold. Many experts link this surge to the industrial revolution of the 18th century. They maintain that with the advent of this development, the world saw a betterment in food production and health services which expedited the birth rate. In later stages, the developed regions of the world realized the significance of the matter; and they managed to control the unsustainable growth of the population. On the contrary, underdeveloped regions (Asia and Africa) fail to halt the unbridled population growth, mainly because of religious misconceptions and cultural aspects. Resultantly, Africa and Asia hold a hefty portion of the global population, which has left those regions in the lurch of backwardness. Therefore, population explosion, being the death knell to sustainable development, is impeding the socioeconomic development of countries. Therefore, taking remedial measures to curb the issue is the need of the hour.

The rise in global population number with the unprecedented rate at which it grows is appalling. Mere two centuries ago, the statistics of the world population were hovering around one billion. However, the current population exceeds 8 billion. Keeping this rapid growth in view, many countries have put population explosion at the top of the development agenda. For starters, China, with its one-child policy in the past, the growing number of aging populations in Japan, and the declining birth rate in Europe are some manifestations of global responses to population explosion. However, nothing concrete has been done by underdeveloped countries in this regard. A major junk of the growing population is emanating from these countries. Therefore, less developed countries must pay heed to the issue of population explosion to avert the implications upon them as well as to stabilize global population growth.

In the other half of the 20th century, when the corporate sectors saw a boom; the urbanization process gained momentum. Urban centers attained unprecedented significance with better quality of life and a large pool of economic opportunities. These all led to the expanded number of economic migrants to the towns, added by a boom in the local population. As a result, the process of urbanization further attained a high pace to meet the demands of ballooning urbanites. Consequently, the world sees an increasing number of populous cities causing unsustainable urbanization and increasing deforestation, concreting, and urban slums. Such urbanization-induced population growth is a menace to human life and must not be left unchecked.

Economic well-being in the concept of sustainable development is of paramount importance. Unbridled population growth, at both the national and individual levels, is a massive barrier to economic progress. At the national level, superfluous population exacerbates the condition of associated factors of the economy, such as sustainable use of resources, education, employment, etc. On the individual level, with the rise in household size, there occurs a financial crunch leading to low standards of living. Since, overpopulation, both at the national and individual levels, puts a strain upon resources and destabilizes the economy. Therefore, population surges must be regulated effectively to achieve financial stability thereby sustainability.

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It is an undeniable fact that a finite world can sustain a finite number of people. The way the number of people is getting manifold, experts are wary of the fact that natural capital is under a severe assault. According to the literature of environmental sciences, if a species exceeds the capacity of its habitat, it will sabotage the ecosystem. It is because natural resources tend to replenish; extraneous population added by unsustainable consumption depletes the natural capital before replenishment. In other words, of Jacques Yves, “overpopulation and overconsumption underlie every environmental problem.” Therefore, the carrying capacity of the earth must be kept on top of things while tackling the issue of population rise.

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Furthermore, it is an incontestable notion that with an increasing number of people, there will be more human activity. At the same time, it, too, is an undeniable fact that much of environmental vows are by-products of human activity. The unchecked deforestation to accommodate a superfluous population and the humongous emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere are the root cause of rising ecological problems. This impact of overpopulation on the environment can be well-summarized by the words of Dan Brown: “Ozone depletion, lack of water, and pollution are not disasters they are symptoms the disease is overpopulation.” Hence, to curb the ecological problem it is essential to attenuate the population growth.

Among the worst implications of population explosion, the food crisis is the worst that has been ravaging the well-being of humanity throughout history. The famines in drought-ravaged regions like the Horn of Africa, where millions have died of hunger and tens of thousands are under the assault of malnutrition, have been chronically putting the world under the test of humanity. Much has been done by the international community to feed the people in such countries. However, there is a dire need to render social responsibility by natives in those areas viz-a-viz controlling the birth rate. Because when resources are least, the explosion of population bulge is tantamount to inviting disaster. In connection with this, it is adroitly said by Lyndon b Johnson that ‘to feed the hungry world it is essential to maintain a balance between people and resources.’ Therefore, to attenuate the misery of the food crisis, it is of the utmost importance to control the population surge, most urgently in drought-ravaged parts of the world.

Water, the elixir of life, is naturally available in cyclic form like every other natural resource. Since the inception of the 21st century, access to safe and clean drinking water is on the top of the development agenda internationally. May it be, the Millennium Development Goals or Sustainable Development Goals, access to clean and safe water has been an integral part of the development agenda. It is because the availability of clean portable water is diminishing. The reason that experts give is the rapidly growing population. Since overpopulation is raising concerns for water security. Therefore, it is essential to put a check on the population bulge viz-a-viz water efficiency to save humanity from the surge of water scarcity.

Education and health are the first and foremost elements of human development. Countries that lag in these two factors are often found at the bottom of the human development index. In such a scenario, the factor of expanding population is putting every effort to impede the betterment of the health and education sector. Heaps of reports exist that highlight the difficulties of women during pregnancy. There is a dearth of facilities available for mothers and childcare. In such a scenario, as Albert Einstein said: “overpopulation is creating a health crisis for people across the globe.” Therefore, controlling uncontrolled population growth is of paramount importance for the amelioration of the health and education of people.

On the top of human development lies the betterment of women (half of the total population). Against the backdrop of sufferings endured by women, the phenomenon of a swiftly growing population is contiguous. This issue reigns high in the third world. For example, the child-bearing ratio in Africa is far higher than in Europe. Therefore, it is clear and vivid that level of women’s development in Africa is far lesser than that of Europe. In line with that, the other woes, like adolescent pregnancy in backward parts of the world, largely in Caribbean states, are devastating the well-being of the female community. In this regard, authorities must act promptly to curb such malevolent practices in such regions. Moreover, higher birth rates across the globe must be guarded against to attain a higher standard of maternal health.

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It is on the record that an underdeveloped world is being hit hard by climate change despite being less-contributor to toxic gases in the atmosphere. It is because the third-world countries in Asia and Africa lack the ability to adapt to climate change. The improper and inadequate housing, such as rising slums, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities, expose the people of these countries to the mayhem of climate change. People in such regions are forced to adopt a pattern of living that is detrimental to their health and to the environment in the long run. Amid such a situation increasing number of people in those areas is augmenting the climate change vulnerability. This, too, raises concerns for rehabilitation authorities to rescue the rising number of prone people. Therefore, in an attempt to build resilience to climate change, population control is of paramount vitality.

In drought-ravaged and war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa, poor governance is worsening the lives of millions. In such conditions, where the 3 Cs: Climate, Conflict, and Corruption are already annihilating millions of lives, the rapid population growth is tantamount to inviting more miseries amid such a scenario. This unbridled population growth augments the paucity of resources and puts strains on the already reduced capacity of rehabilitation authorities. In this regard, the governments in these regions, hand in hand with the betterment of governance systems, must put a halt to the population bulge.

As it is rightly said: every problem comes with an opportunity. Thus, to cope with the perils of population explosion, the countries, together with the reduction of birth rate, must embark on capitalizing on their people, mainly the youth bulge. Studies suggest that countries with higher birth rates contain a huge portion of youth whose potential lies dormant due to the negligence of authorities. Pakistan is the point in case. According to the Pakistan National Human Development Report: ‘68% of the total population in the country is under thirty.’ But the disaster is a lack of political will. If the country starts investing in its youth empowerment, let alone other sectors, only one sector, Information Technology, can turn the fortunes of Pakistan. Therefore, the countries like Pakistan should pay heed to their youth population to attenuate the parallels of population explosion viz-a-viz development.

Moreover, women’s empowerment is the gateway to sustainable population growth. A mound of research suggests that with the tool of education and economic opportunity, women gain a say in the scheme of the things related to the household, particularly the number of children they wish to bear. For example, in Europe, with a higher level of women empowerment, population growth is on the decline by 2%. On the contrary, Africa, whose population is expected to double by the mid-century, lags far behind in the index of women empowerment. Therefore, countries with higher birth rates bring women’s empowerment to the top of the things when it comes to tackling the issue of population growth.

Family health and planning are the primary concern to deal with while tackling the perils of the population bomb. Family planning is not merely a liberal idea, but an ordain mentioned in all religions. Unfortunately, it is labeled as an anti-religious notion. This misinterpretation by the conservatives in society is a death bell to human welfare. Every religion is based on compassion and the well-being of its adherents; no religion allows deeds that are detrimental to health. In this regard, it is of utmost importance that people of all creeds must realize that family planning is not anti-religious but an element of human well-being. Therefore, governments must take serious action to spread awareness of family health and planning. Moreover, enjoining these two ideas with the regular school syllabus is the need of the hour.

Regarding population control, there are scores of misconceptions in societies hovering around societies. Such as, population control is the foreign agenda targeting the communities; population control is against the natural law; it is satanic, etc. Such misconceptions prevail at large in those regions where there exists a large chunk of conservatives. So those obstinate people render every effort to dismantle the notion of population control. These scenarios put religious scholarship to the test. Because, clergy, no matter what religion, holds a great deal of reverence in society. So, in sensitive issues, like population control, the religious heads in the regions can play a vital role. Therefore, governments in conservative societies should take religious scholarship on board to topple the misconceptions regarding birth control.

Conclusively, it can be said that the menace of population explosion is no more a fiction but a fact. From the poverty, food crisis, health, education, and governance challenges to the perils of climate change, overpopulation is at the center of adding to the plight of people. Despite the streams of actions by the international community, the conditions are not yet better. It is because of misconceptions of people regarding population control, poverty, lack of education, and women’s empowerment. Resultantly, the crises of health, food, education, and climate change are creating the worst humanitarian conditions. Thus, regions with population surges must halt unsustainable population growth. Moreover, populous countries should capitalize on youth bulge by providing them with quality health and education facilities viz-a-viz economic opportunity to attenuate the plight of their people.

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Hasnain Gul

An avid reader and independent thinker who finds magic in words